HC Deb 11 November 1941 vol 374 cc2014-6
63 and 65. Sir Frank Sanderson

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) whether he is aware that the present method of tax assessment on the sum of the incomes of husband and wife makes it difficult, and frequently impossible, for a married woman to accept or to continue in employment for which she may be specially suited; that women holding university degrees, who have accepted office in Government Departments have had to resign because, when they have paid full Income Tax, extra help in their home, lunches out and fares to their work, they are out-of-pocket and cannot afford to go to work; and whether in these circumstances he proposes taking any steps to rectify the position;

(2) whether he will consider the application of the principle of the Married Women's Property Act to the taxation of married persons, so that the income of married women shall be assessed and taxed separately from that of their husbands?

Sir K. Wood

I do not accept the assumption on which the first Question is based. I would point out that it is a long-established principle of Income Tax law that the incomes of a husband and wife living together should be aggregated for Income Tax purposes and departure from this principle would, in many cases, lead to an increased burden of tax. Under the existing law in cases in which a wife has earned income, in addition to the earned income relief in respect of that income, there is allowed an increase of the ordinary personal allowance for married persons equal to nine-tenths of the wife's earned income up to a maximum of £45. The married personal allowance may thus be increased from the general level of £140 to a maximum of £185, where the wife is an earner. The treatment of husband and wife for taxation purposes in the same way as single persons would involve the withdrawal of this increased personal allowance and the giving to both husband and wife of the personal allowance of £80 appropriate to single persons instead of the giving against the joint income of the higher personal allowance appropriate to married persons.

Sir F. Sanderson

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a considerable amount of evidence to substantiate the point that I have raised, and is he also aware that the primary cause is the abnormally high direct taxation to-day and that it is also having a serious social and moral effect upon our people in so much as many find it more economical to live together than to enter into the state of holy matrimony?

Sir K. Wood

I have no particular evidence of that. The matter was considered by the Royal Commission, which came to the conclusion, taking the matters set forth in my answer as a whole, that it is best to keep the law as at present.

Sir H. Williams

Is the level of Income Tax the same now as it was when the Royal Commission sat?

Mr. John Wilmot

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the treatment of married women in the matter of earned income makes their employment unremunerative?

Mrs. Tate

Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that, while he discriminates in this extraordinary way against women in the matter of Income Tax, he has no right to pay women lower compensation than men for war injury when that payment is made entirely from taxation?